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Student Profile: Simeon Shtebunaev

Simeon Shtebunaev

Course: Masters in Architecture (MArch) and Town and Regional Planning, University of Sheffield

Why did you choose to study planning?

I completed my bachelor in Architecture. In my two years in architectural practice I attended meetings with planners, put in planning applications and read Local Plans and Area Management Plans in order to inform design decisions. My practice – Building Design Partnership –  had its own planning consultants and slowly but surely I found their job fascinating. I wanted to formalise my knowledge in planning and this led me to enlisting in the dual masters at the University of Sheffield.

Because of my degree in Town Planning I was selected to attend the Habitat III Conference in Quito, Ecuador. It was an incredible insight into the international role of planners and the challenges that lie ahead of the profession. I am now motivated to combine planning in my professional life with architecture and pursue a Chartered Status.

What has been the best thing about studying planning?

The best thing about planning is how differently you start to think about the world around you. I was watching James Corden's Carpool Karaoke and suddenly realised that the premise of the whole YouTube sensation is the existence of HOT (High-occupancy toll) lanes in the USA. A policy that planners have implemented has spawned a popular show. I think it is this ability to rationalise cultural phenomena that planning teaches you as a skill. I am now seeing the influences of planning policies in every corner of cities. It is amazing how it can shape our lives without us realising.

Top tip for future planners?

Question everything and everyone. I think planners have the very important role of being critical, regardless of whether they work in the private or public sector. Questioning why you are asked to do something can uncover hidden power relationships or issues and ultimately will help you to make the better choice as a planner. I would also encourage planners to read design magazines. They can teach you a lot about the ideas of other professionals and create better-informed judgements.

Why would you recommend that students consider a career in planning?

We all know that the urban and rural environment is changing. We are living in the Anthropocene – an era of the existence of the Earth where we are basically terraforming the planet. I think that planners will become more and more important as the mediators between environmental and social interests in development. Whether it is about cities or planning national parks, planners will have a role to play in shaping our everyday environment. Planners combine many different areas of knowledge – history, anthropology, economics, law. If you are looking at the world around you holistically and want to change it for the better you should pursue a career in planning.